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Pulikali
Pulikali is a popular folk art performed during the Onam season. In Pulikali a group of performers paint their whole body in the likeness of tigers and wear tiger mask. They prance about, dance and move like tigers. The tigers are accompanied by a hunter and a drummer. The theme of the play is tiger hunting.

The Swaraj Round in Thrissur district is the venue of a grand Pulikali on the fourth Onam day. On this day Pulikali troups from different parts of the district come here to perform.

It is a colorful recreational folk art from the state of Kerala. It is performed by trained artists to entertain people on the occasion of Onam.


Pulikali, also known as Kaduvaakali, is a 200 year old art, carefully preserved by the artists of the state. Literal meaning of Pulikali is the 'play of the tigers' hence the performance revolve around the theme of tiger hunting. The folk art is mainly practiced in Thrissur (Trichur) and Palghat districts of Kerala. Best place to watch the show is Swaraj Ground at Thrissur on the fourth day of Onam, where Pulikali troupes from all over the district assemble to display their skills. It is a vibrant and colourful event, which is an integral part of Kerala's culture, Pulikali meaning dance of the tiger continues to enthrall people belonging to all age groups in Kerala. During the annual festival of Onam, Pulikali performances can be witnessed in different parts of Kerala, with the district of Thrissur taking the lead in maximum number of performances.

Performers of Pulikali undergo make-up that is time consuming and is also something that warrants patience. Men paint their bodies akin to that of a tiger. And in recent years, there has been modified forms of tiger make-up, in terms of design and colours.

During a typical course of performance, the tiger dancers in the presence of a hunter move with dance steps and resort to histrionics, while the percussion players add verve to the whole performance.


The Appearance

Striking feature of this folk art is the colorful appearance of the performers. To get the semblance of a tiger artists paint themselves in bright yellow with patterns of black and red. A tiger mask on the face completes the get up.

It is a painstaking job and artists spend a whole night prior to the performance day on their make-up. Patience of artists must be appreciated, as most paints contain toxic chemicals which create a burning sensation when applied on newly shaved bodies.

The Play

It is a wonderful sight to see humans in the guise of tigers roaming in the streets. Children, specifically take great delight in their performance as the entertainers dance, pounce and walk like a tiger. Scenes of tiger hunting goats and tiger being hunted by a human beings are also beautifully depicted by them. Beat for the dance movement is provided by percussion instruments like 'udukku' and 'thakil'.

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